[Deathpenalty] death penalty news---S.C., WASH., N.Y., MONT., ORE., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jan 13 00:33:10 UTC 2007
SOUTH CAROLINA----3 new execution dates set
3 IN A ROW: The state has scheduled executions for 3 death-row inmates in
as many weeks. Officials said the timing is a coincidence because
execution dates are set when appeals in cases have been exhausted.
WHO WILL DIE: Marcus Reymond Robinson is scheduled to be executed Jan. 26,
James Edward Thomas will follow Feb. 2, and James Adoph Campbell will be
put to death Feb. 9. Clemency hearings have been scheduled for all 3.
TOO MUCH RUSH: Death penalty opponents plan to keep pushing for a
moratorium on executions. They said three deaths in a row may at least
help raise awareness about flaws in the state's judicial system.
(source: Associated Press)
Supreme Court agrees to consider death penalty for man in 1991 slaying of
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to consider reinstating the death
sentence of Cal Coburn Brown, who was convicted in a 1991 carjacking, rape
and murder in SeaTac. The justices without comment accepted the state of
Washington's appeal of a lower court ruling that overturned Brown's
sentence. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a potential juror was
improperly excluded over his willingness to impose the death penalty.
Brown carjacked Holly Washa, 21, and drove her to a hotel near
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He held her at the motel before
leaving her to die.
Brown, 47, turned himself in after he raped and tried to kill another
woman in Palm Springs, Calif. He admitted to both crimes. In 1993, a King
County jury convicted him and sentenced him to die.
A three-judge appeals court panel set aside the death sentence in December
The juror in question was challenged by prosecutors because he indicated
he would impose the death penalty only if the defendant were in the
position to kill again. Jurors' options were limited: they could sentence
Brown to death or life in prison with no parole.
Defense lawyers did not object at trial. When the issue was raised on
appeal, Washington state courts and a federal judge affirmed the
But the federal appeals panel said the juror should not have been excused
because he said he would consider the death penalty in an appropriate
The state argued to the Supreme Court that the appeals court should have
deferred to state courts in this case under a 1996 federal law that was
designed to make the legal system more efficient in capital cases.
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty dominates the docket at a federal courthouse in NYC
Martin Aguilar "Sassy" robbed drug dealers, shot at couples parked in cars
for kicks and once killed a man by stabbing him with a screwdriver. In
short, prosecutors argue, he was a one-man crime wave worthy of execution
- and he's not alone.
At the same federal courthouse in Brooklyn, 2 other men - a cop killer and
a notorious druglord - are fighting for their lives in an unusual
confluence of 3 death penalty trials. A 4th capital trial involving a
triple-murder defendant has opened in Manhattan federal court as well.
"It's totally unprecedented to have2, let alone 4 cases going on at one
time in one city," said Kevin McNally, a death penalty expert.
Aguilar, 33, was spared Friday when a jury said it could not reach the
required unanimous verdict on whether he should be executed, meaning he'll
automatically receive a sentence of life in prison without parole.
But the death penalty docket in Brooklyn is far from done: 2 more capital
trials are scheduled to begin in the spring. Previously, only three
capital cases had been tried in Brooklyn since 1994, when Congress
dramatically broadened the federal death penalty statute.
Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf declined through a spokesman to
discuss the cluster of cases. U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Erik
Ablin would say only that the department has a vigorous, closed-door
review process designed to apply the federal death penalty "fairly across
Death penalty opponents have complained that starting with the tenure of
former Attorney General John Ashcroft, officials in Washington began
rubber-stamping death penalty cases, particularly in states with no
capital punishment of their own. In New York, the state's highest court
declared the state death penalty law unconstitutional in 2004.
While the volume of state death penalty cases has decreased in recent
years, federal cases have multiplied, said Richard Dieter, executive
director of the Death Penalty Information Center. One result: There are
now 46 inmates on the federal death row - more than double the total in
2000; 3, including Timothy McVeigh, have been put to death since 2001.
Defense attorneys say a blatant example of the federal government's hunger
for a death sentence in New York was seen last March, when prosecutors
announced they were pursuing capital cases against 5 defendants -
including a mother accused of being a lookout in a murder - in the case
against a notorious crack kingpin, Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff. Less than 2
weeks later, the prosecutors reversed themselves without explanation,
saying McGriff alone would face death.
McGriff's lawyer, David Ruhnke, called the maneuvering "simply absurd."
Today, McGriff sits in a courtroom on the 10th floor of the Brooklyn
courthouse, accused of paying $50,000 to have 2 rivals gunned down in 2001
- an alleged encore to a criminal career that made him a legend in the
same Queens neighborhood that produced rap stars like Ja Rule and 50 Cent.
McGriff, 46, emerged from prison in the 1990s and sought to turn his life
around by producing music and movies with the help of Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo,
a neighborhood friend who headed the successful Murder Inc. record label,
his lawyer said. But prosecutors allege the deal allowed the defendant to
launder more than $1 million in drug money through the label.
If a jury convicts McGriff of murder conspiracy and other charges, the
same panel would be asked to decide whether he should receive death.
Another jury will begin the penalty phase next week in the trial of Ronell
Wilson, 23, convicted last month in the execution-style slaying of 2
police officers during an undercover weapons buy gone awry.
A third jury convicted Aguilar, a drug-dealing member of the Latin Kings
street gang, last month of shooting a man in the head to pay off a debt to
a cocaine supplier. A gravedigger testified that he helped the defendant
dump the body down a cemetery storm drain - "We heard a splash" - where it
was found rotting a year later.
It was the crowning crime of a lifetime of violence that continued as he
awaited trial in federal lockup, said prosecutor Todd Harrison. Aguilar,
he said, stabbed a fellow inmate before going to court for jury selection.
"He's committed virtually every kind of crime known to our society,"
Aguilar's lawyers sought to persuade jurors to spare his life with
testimony by his mother about his rough upbringing. His mother testified
that his father slaughtered his pet rabbit to discourage him from becoming
a veterinarian and complained that his "Sassy" nickname was "too girly."
The defendant "has a kernel of good in him and if his life is spared, that
kernel will grow," defense attorney Lou Freeman said before the jury vote.
Aguilar and the other defendants could take some solace in the fact that
New York juries are reluctant to impose death. The last time a federal
death sentence was imposed in the city was for a bank robber who killed an
FBI agent - in 1954.
In the Aguilar case, the anonymous jurors deliberated for six hours before
voting 10-2 against death.
"As for taking a taking a life, we don't have that right," a woman on the
jury said afterward outside court. "God put us here and God should take
(source: Associated Press)
Former MSU athletes may face death penalty
In Bozeman, prosecutors will be allowed to seek the death penalty for 2
former Montana State University athletes if the men are convicted of
killing a suspected drug dealer, a judge has ruled.
However, Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert has not decided whether he
will seek death sentences in the case.
Former Bobcat basketball player Branden Miller and former redshirt
football player John Lebrum are charged with murder, kidnapping and
evidence tampering in the June 23 shooting of Jason Wright, 26.
Defense attorneys had argued that Lambert should not be allowed to seek
the death penalty because he failed to notify the court, in writing and
within 60 days of arraignment, that he planned to do so. The purpose of
filing the notice is to inform the defendants of their potential
punishment and help them prepare for trial.
District Judge Mike Salvagni ruled this week that Lambert's failure to
file the paperwork within 60 days did not prejudice the defendants' cases,
nor did it violate their rights to due process.
Lambert included death as a possible punishment when he filed the charges
against Lebrum and Miller, Salvagni said in his order.
The defendants were informed when they appeared in both Justice Court and
District Court that they could be sentenced to death, the judge said. He
also said that in court briefs, attorneys on both sides have referred to
Wright's death as a capital case.
''From the record, it is evident that the defendant was aware of the
possible imposition of the death penalty at the inception of this case,''
Lambert said Thursday he has filed the death-penalty paperwork but can
withdraw it later. He said he will make the decision after he has all the
evidence and has had a chance to discuss the matter with Wright's family.
Defense attorneys said they will continue pressing to get the death
penalty off the table. They may challenge Salvagni's ruling, said Al
Avignone, Lebrum's attorney.
(source: Associated Press)
Death row drama opens dialogue on capital punishment----AHS students
perform Dead Man Walking
To some people, Matthew Poncelet's role in the rape and murder of a
teenage couple parked at a Louisiana lovers' lane after a high school
football game painted him as a cold-blooded murderer deserving the worst
But to his three younger brothers, he was a man, not a monster.
Did Poncelet deserve to die?
Astoria High School students this month have swung the spotlight on the
issue of capital punishment - or the death penalty - as they prepare for a
February stage production of "Dead Man Walking."
With a script written by Tim Robbins, who directed the 1995 film of the
same name, the story is based on the experiences detailed in a novel by
Sister Helen Prejean. Poncelet's character is actually an amalgam of 2
convicts the nun counseled on death row.
The story walks a fine line on a divisive issue, its foundation rooted in
religious, moral, logical and emotional views.
Critics say capital punishment lowers government to a criminal's level,
that it violates human rights, that it costs more than lifelong
incarceration, that it could lead to the deaths of people wrongly
Proponents argue the practice deters crime, that it prevents repeat
offenders, that it's cheaper than long-term high-security imprisonment and
that the victims of crimes lost their rights, too.
AHS students hope comprehensive research can help them portray all sides
of the controversial issue. Cast members have each spent 8 to 12 hours so
far reading about laws, personal experiences and the death penalty's
"We're having to do a lot of research, but I think it's going to build
everyone's characters more," said Christina Tweed, 18, who plays a prison
worker. "People are really going to be able to connect and form their own
And it's important for people her age to explore sensitive topics, she
"It's helping me look past Astoria," said Tweed. "I'm going to go to
college soon, and I'm going to be exposed to a lot of different things and
different opinions. This just helps me figure out where I stand on
everything before I'm thrown into all that."
That's the goal of Jenni Newton, the school's drama director.
She said theater offers a perfect opportunity to probe challenging subject
"I believe theater is an art that helps equip students to make their own
decisions," Newton said. "That's an invaluable thing to teach this age
The process has led her to examine her own opinions as well, although she
refuses to share them with her cast until the last curtain falls.
"When it started, I wasn't even sure where I stood," she said. "Good
theater makes you think."
To use the script, the high school had to agree to a few requirements.
In 2004, rather than having the stage version of "Dead Man Walking"
produced professionally, Tim Robbins offered the play to a group of
schools, mostly Catholic.
Their success led to the creation of the Dead Man Walking School Theatre
Project, which allows schools to use the play on several conditions: They
must provide feedback; multiple academic departments must be involved in a
larger study of capital punishment; and script changes must be minimal and
pre-approved under the project.
Astoria's production has involved speech and debate, yearbook, drama and
On Wednesday, several classes met with Aba Gayle, of Silverton, whose
19-year-old daughter was stabbed to death in 1980. Her murderer was
sentenced to die, a punishment Gayle does not support. Since forgiving the
man more than a decade ago, she has traveled internationally to speak
against the death penalty.
Next week, the school will hear from Clatsop County District Attorney Josh
Marquis and abolitionist Magdaleno Rose-Avila, director of the Northwest
Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, at an evening forum that opens the
debate up to the public.
In addition, students have examined their own opinions and connections to
the death penalty. They have spoken with counselors about rape and other
violent crimes, and they have studied the personal accounts of death row
inmates, victims' anguished families, inmates' bereaved families, prison
workers, attorneys and others in the judicial system.
"There are a lot of repercussions to the death penalty other than the
person being put to death," Aba Gayle told the "Dead Man Walking" cast.
Student Meredith Boullie, 17, agreed. "It affects more people than it
seems at first," she said, noting an inmate's family members can also
Vice Principal Gary Sunderland said he hasn't found a consistent stance on
the issue, "but there's such a thing as justice."
"If someone is going to choose to be a monster, maybe their life should be
ended," he said.
The death penalty is sanctioned by 38 of the country's 50 states, each
with its own definition of capital crimes and chosen method of execution.
More than 30 inmates sit on Oregon's death row. Most of them are white.
Their average age is 44. If executed, they will die by a lethal chemical
But it's unclear whether that will actually happen to many of the
prisoners. Oregon has a tumultuous history with the law, abolishing it and
reinstating it multiple times in the past century. Only two people have
been executed since 1976, both in the 1990s. Both also gave up their
rights to appeal - essentially, said D.A. Marquis, they chose to die.
"It's something that's rarely sought and rarely imposed," he said. "I
think that's a good thing."
Marquis has requested a death sentence in only one case - the 1998 murder
of a woman in Warrenton - but it was not granted. It's something he
reserves for only the worst cases.
"We don't execute people to avenge victims," said Marquis. "We execute
people in the United States because there are some crimes that are so
awful they deserve it."
A murder is not comparable to a state-sanctioned death, he said. With the
play's character Poncelet: "Although he's being put to death, he's able to
say his good-byes."
"This is something I feel strongly about as someone who tries murder
cases," said Marquis. "It's state killing, not state murder."
But the play aims to show all points of view. Marquis feels the film, and
likely the stage version, largely fulfill that goal.
"It is very easy when you are passionately opposed to the death penalty
for moral or religious reasons to identify with the killer" when they're
chained "and often contrite," he said. "They're not the vicious predator
that they were 10 or 20 years ago when they committed what got them on
"One of the things 'Dead Man Walking' does that is laudable is it frames
the debate in a way that is not emotionally one-sided."
Astoria will be one of the first public high schools to perform "Dead Man
Walking," and just the 2nd high school in Oregon to try it.
The only other is Portland private school Jesuit High, which staged the
play in spring 2005.
For teachers Jeff Hall and Elaine Kloser, who managed the play there, the
benefits they've seen for students have been endless.
"From the educational standpoint, kids got to really see all sides of a
complicated issue," said Hall. "From a theatrical standpoint, kids saw in
a really tangible way how theater could be a catalyst for dialogue."
That dialogue has continued through today. A group of Jesuit students now
meets regularly to discuss current issues involving the death penalty.
"Drama is not self-serving; it's service to a community, to a story and to
each other," said Kloser. "The play did exactly what Sister Helen
(Prejean) wanted it to. It started discourse that is continuing today."
Astoria High School's production of "Dead Man Walking" opens Feb. 16.
(source: The Daily Astorian)
Appeals court orders new hearing for death row inmate
In Montgomery, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered a new
sentencing hearing for Brandon Washington, sentenced to death by lethal
injection for the execution-style shooting death of a store clerk at a
Birmingham Radio Shack store.
The appeals court upheld Washington's conviction, but ruled that the trial
court in Jefferson County erred when it did not consider a pre-sentencing
report at Washington's sentencing.
Washington was convicted in the Jan. 16, 2005 shooting death of Walter
Justin Campbell, a clerk at a Radio Shack store in Birmingham's Huffman
Washington, a student at Miles College at the time, had been fired from
the store days earlier for failing to show up for work.
The appeals court rejected Washington's arguments that the testimony of
two key witnesses should not have been considered because police learned
of the witnesses from statements made by Washington before he was read his
The appeals court said Washington should have another sentencing hearing,
so he can question the findings of the pre-sentencing report.
(source: Associated Press)
More information about the DeathPenalty